There is nothing in sports more anticlimactic than the NFL trade deadline. Fans want it to be like baseball or the NBA, with teams unloading well-paid stars casting an eye to next year. But the league's parity and cap system make it almost impossible to get anything more exciting than Mike Thomas getting swapped. The St. Louis Rams seem unlikely to get involved either, after Jeff Fisher shot down the Steven Jackson trade rumors. That's probably a mistake.
Barring something strange, Steven Jackson is not coming back to the Rams in 2013, not after restructuring the contract this fall. Over the next eight games, Jackson will carry roughly 60 percent of the load in the running game.
Having Jackson on the field certainly doesn't hurt the Rams woeful offense, but as we've learned over the years, it's not really going to help it either. Jackson is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. If he finishes the season with that mark, it would be the lowest YPC of his career. Unlike years past, where Jackson has produced at much higher levels, the results can't all be pinned on the offensive line. According to Football Outsiders, the Rams front five is allowing an average of 4.01 adjusted line yards. That's a middle of the pack number (16th), but is the best mark the Rams have produced since 2006.
Jackson has far more value to a team like the Packers than he does the Rams. Those teams can give him a shot at the postseason before he turns 30. But the Rams have no moral, ethical obligation to trade Jackson.
The Rams do, however, have a trio of rookie running backs: Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Terrance Ganaway. Richardson has already played his way into more snaps, sharing time with Jackson. Pead, a second-round pick, has struggled with limited opportunities, but his role in the near-term future still looms large. Getting all three of those players more carries would give the Rams a much better feel for where the team is headed next season.
Play the young players. It's a theme Rams fans are used to hearing over the last few awful seasons of football and rebuilding here. It's also much easier to play rookie running backs, learning curves and all, than it is other positions like receiver or tackle.
The Rams aren't going to much in return for Jackson. It stands to reason that they weren't getting the offers envisioned when Fisher nixed the idea of a deal on Tuesday. The return doesn't really matter. Jackson is unlikely to net the team a compensatory pick in the 2014 draft (comp picks come a year after the team loses a free agent).
It stinks to lose a star player like Jackson, a player that's been the lone bright spot for so long. This is about starting to look beyond this season, not holding onto the past.